It’s difficult to see him. No, that isn’t quite right. He’s hard to see. When he first stepped aboard, there was something odd about the way he moved. It was robotic, in a herky-jerky sort of way. When he asked the driver a question, I could not make heads or tails of the language he was speaking; and neither could the driver. The man, slight of build and dressed in a light grey suit, shook his head, muttered, and tapped his wristwatch. He sighed and said, “Backwards. Sorry.” And then asked the driver about routes and fares. Once he was in a seat, I kept hearing an odd sound from his direction, like the high pitched whine of a mosquito. And when I looked at him, I couldn’t get him in focus. I thought my glasses were smudged, but no, he was blurry. All of him. Except his shiny, bronze colored wristwatch. And then, suddenly, everyone’s ears on the bus popped, like we’d just changed altitude. And the whine sound was gone. When I looked back to the man in the grey suit, he was gone and a woman in a tan coat and a lavender knit cap was in his seat. As if she’d always been there.
It seems that commuting through time appears to be just as rife with challenges as other modes of transport.
It is chilly out and the sun is trying in vain to push itself through the thick grey clouds that hang over the city like dingy candy floss. Most of us are bundled up, not quite in winter regalia, but still protected from the chilly wind and rain. When he steps aboard, what he is NOT wearing is immediately noticeable; a jacket. Or a coat. Or a sweater. Or even a long sleeved shirt. A t-shirt, in a pale blue color, is stretched over his muscled torso. He towers over most, capping it off with a very shiny, very bald head. And, oddly, no eyebrows or eyelashes. As he finds a seat, his phone rings. I think it’s some song by Foreigner.
Answering with an exasperated sigh, “Yes, Dad. I know, Dad. Don’t worry, Dad, I’ve got this.”
He hangs up and he turns his gaze to the woman next to him, his blue eyes scanning her face, seemingly without emotion. She shivers, visibly, and, almost involuntarily, reaches out a hand to touch his exposed forearm. And lighting quick, she snatches her fingers back, and begins blowing on them, as if she’d touched a frozen metal ice cube tray. He smiles, coldly. Just as he’s leaning towards her to speak, his phone rings again. Definitely Foreigner.
“Aw jeez, Dad, I told you I’m all set. Stop worrying. No. There are no capes. I promise. Yes, Dad, I looked. Fine. I’ll call you the minute I get there.”
By the time he’s done, the woman is engrossed in her Kindle and ignores him.
I don’t know what is weirder; that he has a son at all, or that Mr. Freeze is a helicopter parent
It’s a disaster in the making. The gentleman boards the bus as if walking barefoot over vipers, his eyes wide with trepidation. Challenged just by walking, he has compounded the event by carrying an umbrella, a satchel, and, a carry-out container of hot soup. As the ridership sees the steam escaping, and the smell of chicken soup wafts through the early morning air – an atmosphere normally reserved for the scents of coffee and anxiety – you can feel the tension building. He gingerly steps along, making his potentially treacherous way down the aisle, towards a seat in the far back of the bus. With every bump and lurch, a collective clench circulates among the riders nearest him. Finally, a young woman, leaps to her feet and all but pushes him into her seat. His feeble protests transition to muttered gratitude as the rest of the bus releases the breath we didn’t realize we were holding.
Sometimes receiving help comes with a slight shove, but, when you take it, the world will be grateful.
He insists on getting on the bus first. Never exchanging greetings with the driver, he launches himself into the bus, but only so far. He stops, often halfway, his bulk blocking any further passage by others. Riders shoving past him to make room for more are met with a mixture of confusion and disdain. Over the months, this happens almost every day and yet, his behavior never wavers.
This morning, she was having none of it. She’s petite, decked out in shades of scarlet and mauve, with a coat that reads like armor and a hat that, in another place and time, might sit atop the head of a conquistador. She boards, along with a curling team sized complement of riders. She runs headlong into the blockage, her small frame making a “thwap” sound against his larger one. She starts with a gentle, “Excuse me.” And then, when there is no response, she says, quite loudly, “Sir, move forward please.” And when met with his usual state of contempt, she says, in a surprisingly stentorian voice, “Sir, if you don’t move, you will live to regret it!”
The bus goes silent waiting for his response.
When he turns his back to her with a huff, there is an audible gasp from the collective ridership. “Fine.” she says. And she raises a small hand, palm towards him, with third and fourth fingers slightly bent, and she taps her foot, gently, on the floor of the bus. Everyone feels a lurch, as if the world stopped spinning, just for a moment. The man squeaks, as if stung, and makes a dash for the slowly closing back door. By the time it closes, a large rat is seen jumping off the bus and running into a sewer drain.
Karma comes in many forms and righteous fury is oft meted out by someone who doesn’t have to advertise their power.
Three times he drops something. His keys, his lunch sack, and his keys. Again. He steps off the bus and starts to cross the street but pauses to check he’s not missing anything. Just as he pauses, a green sedan makes a right hand turn without any care and would have flattened him. When the Fates tap your thread three times, it always pays to pause for a moment.